tobes wrote:I grant you that the Edicts are too often treated glibly by Buddhists wishing to establish a tenable Buddhist influenced politics. There is probably much that is historical myth. However, you should note that what is distinctive about those claims are the renunciation of (state) violence, not the justification for it, and associated positive virtues such as the building of hospitals for animals.
I think that the greater tendency in history has been towards a preference for Kautilyan principles in South and South East Asia and Confucian principles in East Asia. The Ashokan model collapsed almost immediately as it was effected, it was despotic and utopian, disrespecting established norms and principles that had been practised for centuries, attempting to remodel human behaviour by force under the ever watchful gaze of grand inquisitors. Note that the Buddha recommended in the Mahaparnibbanasuttanta that neither new laws neither be enacted or old ones abolished, but to proceed upon the precedent of ages and of aeons. Was Ashoka well intentioned? Yes, of course he was, he was deeply troubled by his past and spent his life's energy attempting to make up for it with what powers he had - and what great powers they were, albeit inherited from his father, who may, perhaps, be said to have been a more able statesman. Was he a good Buddhist? By and large, he was, and he was beneficial to the world at large, by having been the foremost spreader of the Buddha's dispensation up unto that point, and a facilitator of a council - albeit his favour was an immense influence at said council. But was he a good ruler? Unfortunately no, he did not actually proceed upon solid ground, he was a revolutionary, he was a dreamer, he was a utopian, and those are things which the Buddha didn't ask anyone to be except in a humorously mocking form within the Sangha itself, wherein principles of old were made topsy turvy and set to Dharmic aims, which Sangha, fundamentally, is the cattle-range of the Dharma, where it properly acts and behaves, where it functions most properly, efficiently, and without problem or error in either enactment or judgment - just as dandaniti is the duty of the king, dharma is the duty of the sramana - and a fierce duty that is, which no opponent can ever turn back, neither Sakra, nor Mara, nor Brahma - a claim to which even a Cakravartin cannot make stake.
tobes wrote:A theory of justice from the Ratnāvalī: Just as deficient children are punished/Out of a wish to make them competent/So punishment should be carried out with compassion/Not through hatred nor desire for wealth.
A theory of justice it is not, a theory of morals it is. Act out of compassion, every Buddhist knows that. That punishment should or should not be carried out is not within the scope of this verse.
tobes wrote:Perhaps you could tell us why it is wrong to draw such a theory from Buddhist principles? And to articulate it - that is, put it into speech - as Nāgārjuna has done.
I see neither need nor justification for assuming that I think something is wrong which I have not formally stated to be such.
tobes wrote:There is so much that could be drawn from the Suvarṇaprabhāsa - might the issue be that you do not accept Mahāyāna literature?? If so, I'm fine with that, but should we reframe the discussion to reflect that context?
Do I do myself such disservice to paint my own picture in such a light?
No, I am a very happy Mahayanist who has taken the Bodhisattva vow and intends to be reborn in Sukhāvatī in a lotus upon death - if I am so fortunate.
tobes wrote:not all political statements are necessarily personal
Well that certainly would be an overstatement, to which I do wholeheartedly disagree. The issue fundamentally as far as personal concern is regarded is for the tendency for such statements to become personal. For instance, if one is a monarch, one's actions are moral or immoral, but neither necessarily either - yet it must be said that certain immoral, albeit necessary, actions are occasionally required of monarchs. However, if one is debating said actions outside of the realm of action, but in the realm of dispute, the issues are that one's opponent may automatically be taken to be ill-informed simply for not holding the view that one does oneself - for it must be said that all view their own opinions reasonable, and all act as they think proper, to do otherwise were folly or madness. Moreover, one's motivations for discussing such topics simply must be worldly, since otherwise one would be discussing the dharma, hence why anger arises and blood boils and one is prone to fits of tension upon the discussion of political topics. Thus, one who does engage in such discussion must be aware that it is somewhat like visiting a common bar or public house - while one may not drink alcohol, smoke where it is still permitted, argue, gamble, or speak foully, one is in an environment where one becomes more prone to do so, and thus people of respectable repute tend not to suggest them as locales of refinement and sophistication. But the fact that discussion of political matters tends in the due course of lengthy and heated or short and fierce conversation to personal disagreement is but a trifle in comparison with the weight and significance of some of the other problems with the matter. Fundamentally, we are talking here about soteriological concerns. But to be to a point, slightly offhand, I should say that no one but a completely and perfectly fully awakened Buddha perfectly upholds the principles of right speech, let alone action in general - even the arhats had wet dreams if you'll recall
. One must, however, be aware that the advantageous is the advantageous and the disadvantageous is disadvantageous - for instance, I still read the news, even though it's full of negativity, and I also enjoy listening to opera, even though I know it tends to attachment to non-dharmic sound. The real point is that one is aware - then the karma is less for one can rectify one's deeds when the time comes for such appropriate rectification, when the requisites and conditions for our minds to be pure enough for such rectification to take proper effect have been procured. For one, this is why I am a pureland practitioner, I know that I will likely not overcome all of my attachments in this life - I don't have the conditions or bravery to ordain right now, but I have always hoped that in the future I may - but I am aware that they are attachments, if I wasn't aware of any of them, then I would think myself awakened and be haughtier than I already am, which is still too much to be said to be free altogether of pride - which is to be shunned. But recognise the right for the right, and the wrong for the wrong, and take requisite measures as you can.
tobes wrote:Also, that there is no contradiction between drawing political statements from particular principles of Buddhist Dharma
There doesn't have to be. The point here is wrong speech. One can believe in one's heart that all brigands are heroes and all soldiers are swine, and conclude so from Buddhist principles, but to engage in debate on such matters isn't going to get anyone to nirvana - which is what right speech is about. Right speech not only means speech that is kind and compassionate, but which is timely and necessary. If such a statement need be said, and the time is the right time, and it is necessary for someone's awakening, then that is the context in which such a statement is right speech. Otherwise it is wrong speech. Does one want to attain nirvana or Buddhahood at least? One should ask. If one does, then abandon wrong speech. It's a rather simple principle.